• 1943 P38 Heerespistole (Army Pistol)

    1943 P38 Heerespistole (Army Pistol)
    (Mfg in 1943 by Mauser Oberndorf [byf])

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Caliber: ......................... 9mm Parabellum
    Rifling & Twist: ............... 6 groove, right hand twist.
    Barrel Length: ................ 4.9 in. (125 mm)
    Overall Length: .............. 8.5 in. (216 mm)
    Weight: ......................... 1.77 ilbs. (800 grams)
    Magazine Capacity: ........ 8 rounds
    Qty Mfg: ........................ 380,000 manufactured by Mauser between 1942 and 1946

    Source: .... "Guns Review" Volume 26 No. 8 August 1986 by J. Schonebeck

    1943 P38 Heerespistole (Army Pistol)

    (21 picture virtual tour)

    Observations: (excerpted from "Guns Review", Volume 26, No. 8, August 1986 by J. Schonebeck)
    Note: Pics of pistol provided courtesy of Milsurps.com member "Claven2".

    In 1935 the German "Heereswaffenamt" or "HWaA" began serious research for a replacement of the old Luger as they felt that the cost, as well as the sensitivity of the P.08 to its ammunition, was too high.

    Several well-known German manufacturers took part in the competition which included Sauer & Sohn, the Berlin-Suhler Waffenfabrik and Mauser with its model HSv. All pistols were rejected by the Heereswaffenamt in favour of the Walther submission. After some changes regarding its name, [model MP (=militaerpistole), AP (=armeepistole), and HP (=heerespistole)], and several other mechanical changes, the gun was finally given its approval by the military. Its official designation became "Pistole 38" or P.38 signifying the year of official introduction into the army.

    Being designed for mass production, the cost for the necessary amounts of raw material -steel, etc.- was also much less than for the Luger (P.08: 11.50 Reichmark in 1939, P.38: 5.60 Reichmark in 1940). After delivering only 1470 guns in 1939 for test purposes, Walther started regular production programme in 1940 but due to manufacturing problems, only 25,000 guns were produced that year. These were made with the Walther banner and under the codes "480", "ac" and "ac40". Walther kept this code with the last two digits of the year of manufacture until the end of the war in 1945.

    Since it was obvious that the Walther firm would not be able to supply the German military with the enormous amount of handguns that was needed, Mauser was asked in 1942 to tool up for the production of P.38s, followed in 1943 by the Spreewerke firm in Berlin (code cyq) and several occupied foreign companies, such as "FN" in Belgium, the "Boehmische Waffenfabrik" (code fnh) and the "Erstre Nordboehmische Metallwarenfabrik" (code jvd) in Czechoslovakia which manufactured slides and frames (FN) , barrels and locking blocks (fnh) and magazines (jvd).

    Mauser stopped production of the Luger pistol at the end of 1942. The last lot of P.08s, though proofed by the Heereswaffenampt, were not even accepted by the military and instead sold to Portugal (P.08, code byf42 Ser. No. 685n-5253n). P.38 production at the Mauser factory began in November 1942. All Mauser made P.38s either went to the military or the police forces. There were no commercial sales.

    The designation of the P.38 pistols followed the same system as before on the Luger pistols. All guns were stamped on the left hand side of the slide with the Mauser code, which was "byf" between 1941 and the end of 1944, and "SVW" in 1945 and 1946. Earlier Mauser codes that can be found on other guns were "237", "S/42" and "42". These kinds of codes were given to manufacturers of arms and military equipment in order to conceal production figures and sources.

    Due to difficulties in the starting of production and its late beginning in November, 1942, Mauser made only few byf42 coded P.38s. In 1943 and 1944 the production was at its highest level and an enormous amount of guns was turned out. This changed completely towards the end of the war. Due to the lack of raw material and workers, only a small amount of P.38s coded SVW45 were produced for the German military. Though the demand for handguns rose constantly throughout the war, Mauser managed to keep the workmanship on its pistols at a fairly high level. Nevertheless, the finish became somewhat rougher during the last years. Still all guns functioned well and with great reliability.

    The production of guns under German authority stopped finally on the 20th of April, 1945 when the Mauser factory was overrun by French troops. Shortly thereafter, manufacture was resumed for the French military and police forces. Between May 1945 and May 1946, when production phased out, Mauser produced approximately 100,000 98k carbines, 20,000 HSc pistols, 3,000 Lugers, some WTPII pistols and approximately 30,000 to 40,000 P.38s. The French kept the German SVW code and continued the serial numbering system. After the end of the French production, all factory buildings and records were ordered to be destroyed by the French occupation forces, thereby making it difficult for today's collector to trace production figures and other records.

    During the time of production, between 1942 and 1946, only minor changes were made to speed up production. In 1944 the hold-open latch was simplified from an expensive machined part to a less expensive and easier to produce stamping of sheet metal. In the same year, Mauser also started experimenting with a new parkerized finish, which was easier and faster to use and less expensive. It was utilised from late 1944 until the end of the war in April, 1945. Pistols with this finish have a dull grey-green appearance. It can only be found on late byf44 and SVW45 coded P.38s.

    Earlier in 1943, the section under the trigger pin hole of the frame was no longer cut straight. A slight projection was left at this point in order to beef up this area. Before, the trigger pin hole had been rather close to the underside of the trigger guard. Mauser P.38s made before 1944 usually have a dull blue to black coloured military-type blueing.

    Late in 1944 in the second b-range serial number series, the firm started manufacturing the pistols with parkerized frames and slides, but blued barrels. The production of these "dual tone" guns continued into early 1945 (ca second half of the e-block, code SVW45). The final German P.38s usually had an overall parkerized finish, including barrel. French made P.38s coded SVW45 or 46 are either parkerized with a very dark green-grey and "rough" looking finish that differs from the German finish or blued.

    Grip Panels on Mauser P.38s during the war were usually either made of red-brown bakelite or black plastic. Sometimes different shades of brown plastic may be found. While the red-brown bakelite grip panels were mostly used during 1942-43 and the beginning of 1944, the black plastic panels were mostly utilised in the latter half of 1944 and in 1945. However both styles may be found on earlier, as well as, latter guns. French guns had either black plastic grip panels that were left over from German stocks or stamped metal grip panels that were parkerized or blued, depending on the finish of the rest of the gun.

    Proof and Acceptance Marks

    Almost all of the Mauser manufactured P.38s went to the German military forces: "Heer" (Army), "Luftwaffe" (Airforce) and "Kriegsmarine" (Navy). All these guns were issued with a pattern of proofmarks and acceptance stamps. Every pistol was test fired and then stamped with a military test proofmark on each slide, (right hand side), locking block and barrel. In addition, acceptance stamps were placed on the slide (two- left and right from the military proofmark), the frame (right, next to serial number), the locking block, the barrel and the magazine. The purpose of these acceptance stamps was to prove that each individual gun and its parts met the quality standards set by the "Heerswaffenamt". In order to carry out this job, inspectors were assigned to each individual firm if they were larger companies or to a specific area if there were several smaller manufacturers. These inspectors and their office (called the "Waffenamt" or "WaA" which means "weapons office") were responsible to the "Heerswaffenamt" rather than the producer to which they were assigned and can be identified by the individual acceptance stamp. During production of the P.38, the inspectors at Mauser used the "eagle-over 135" stamp until the beginning of 1944 and the "eagle-over-WaA 135" after that until the end of the war.

    Almost all P.38s manufactured under German authority were made for the military. Aside from those, there was a small number ordered by the "Reichsinnenministerium" or ministry of interior, for the police forces, all of which were coded byf43, 44 or SVW45. Instead of the military proofmark, these guns were stamped with German Nitro-commercial-proof. It can be found on the left hand side of the slide (next to guns serial number), on the barrel, and on the locking block. Aside from the commercial proofs, police P.38s carry a distinctive police acceptance stamp on the right hand side of the slide which consists of an eagle with either an L or F. It served the same purpose as the military stamp. The eagle-L stamp is found on the earlier guns with the code byf43 or byf44 while the eagle-F can be seen on a few late production byf44s and SVW45s. Since the parts for these guns were taken from military stocks most, if not all, also carry some military acceptance stamps on the usual spots.

    This article would not be complete without mentioning a rather peculiar lot of several hundred to several thousand dual tone finished P.38s the Mauser factory turned out in late 1944. The serial numbers of these guns all fall within the c-range of the second alphabet run. Instead of the usual byf44 code, these pistols carry the stacked codes "ac 43" or "ac 44" on the left hand side of the slide. The slides on all these P.38s were manufactured by the Belgium firm "Fabrique Nationale d'Armes de Guerre" (FN) and it was there that they had the Walther code engraved, apparently by hand, due to the irregularities in the writing of the codes. It can therefore be assumed that they were destined for the Walther firm and re-routed to Mauser. FN never manufactured any complete P.38s. Instead they made some slides and frames. Mauser assembled most FN slides, Walther most of the FN frames, while Spreewerke Berlin, according to Warren H. Buxton, assembled both.

    Judging by the dual tone finish on the guns examined by the author, and their serial number range, these P.38s were finished, serialised, proofed, and assembled by Mauser in very late 1944. They carry the "eagle-over-WaA 135" Mauser military acceptance stamp. Some police issued models have also been reported. All in all, these guns are quite rare, especially if they carry a police acceptance stamp.

    P.38s made under French supervision usually did not carry any German proofmarks or acceptance stamps, unless they had French used parts that had already been proofed or accepted by the Germans. Quite a few guns like these, from the early French production can be found in the g-or early h-serial number range. Typical for the French P.38s is the "star proof" which served as a pressure test proofmark and not as an acceptance stamp. It can be found on the same places as the German proofmark.

    Collector's Comments and Feedback:

    1. Premiums may typically be paid for pistols with original holsters and both identically coded magazines. Matching serial numbers are the norm on these pistols and should be insisted upon in a collectible example. Bore on wartime P38's vary from ratty and poor to nearly new, though most show some wear or minor pitting due to wartime ammunition quality (or lack thereof).

    Recently a great number of pistols have been released from old russian stores located in the Ukraine. These are pistols acquired by the Russians during and immediately following the war. Virtually all are refurbished, usually by a process referred to as "hot dip" blueing. Typically, even parts normally found in the white on original pistols such as the locking block will be blued on these russian capture examples, and also an "X" refurbishment mark will be found on these pistols. Sometimes they have been force-matched with either stamps and/or electro-pencil. Import marks are also common on these guns. Obviously, these RC P38's are not as desirable as original examples and should be valued accordingly.
    .......... (Feedback by "Claven2")
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 1943 P38 Heerespistole (Army Pistol) started by Badger View original post
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